Posted on 02-09-2009
Filed Under (music business) by Jon Stinson

In other words, don’t overcommit yourself to more projects than you can handle, and stick to your guns-both in negotiations, and in the forward-thinking creative ideas you put into your career.

Being a yes man all the time won’t make you achieve the success you’re after. However you’ve chosen to define that.

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Posted on 01-06-2009
Filed Under (music business) by Jon Stinson

4-Hour Work Week Cover

I’ve been drafting this post since mid March. The first two drafts I ended up with a 1000+ word review. I scrapped them both because they were way too long, and full of way too much detail. I decided I’d attempt once more, and if it didn’t work out this last time I’d totally bail on the post. So I stripped everything down to the bare essentials:

The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss

Why is this applicable to producers
I am not suggesting that you should make records in four hour increments. Although it would make for a cool experimental project, you’re not going to make a business out of this practice. What I am suggesting is that you need to expand your skill set-wear more hats. My reasoning for recommending this book is to point you to a resource which will get you thinking about how to accomplish more.

The highlights
The part of the book that most resonated with me was Step II (chapters 5, 6, and 7), which was all about accomplishing more by doing less, eliminating useless information consumption, and deleting interruption.

The point
As a music business professional you need to expand your skill set in order to stay relevant. The 4-Hour Work Week serves as a powerful resource to help you manage this diversification. It’s worth the weekend it takes to read it.

Timothy Ferriss, the author, also has a blog which is a great resource. []

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Posted on 01-04-2008
Filed Under (music business) by Jon Stinson

My business partner just informed me. Read this immediately!

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Posted on 11-02-2008
Filed Under (music business) by Jon Stinson


The music business is a people oriented business. Let me emphasize that; THE MUSIC BUSINESS IS A PEOPLE ORIENTED BUSINESS. What I’m saying is that you have to actively develop and pursue relationships with people on a daily basis to maintain your career. These connections must be made with people in all facets of the music industry all the time, no matter what YOUR job title is. No one else can do this for you. Sure, you may have a manager. You might be signed to a record deal. Maybe some of your work has gotten some high profile exposure. Despite all of this, no one can inform others about you or your band better than you yourself. And if you are not willing to do what it takes to maintain your career, no one else is going to want to work with you. Your manager, record label, etc. can only present you with opportunities, you have to follow through. Your band is a business, and you need to be taking a hands-on approach in all of the daily managerial tasks. All the successful people who you come in contact with only got where they are because they worked harder than anyone else, made many significant sacrifices and at all costs figured out how to always say, “yes.”

It does not matter what level you are at in your music career, you are always going to need the help of the other band who has been around longer than you; who has more reach/influence. They have already built the fan-base, the relationship with the venue, gotten the exposure in local media, sold merchandise, struck friendships with other bands, made connections with various music industry people, etc… get the picture? In so many words they are “better” than you. I’m not saying your music is bad, just that to the outside you are an unfamiliar face. You are a huge risk. The consumers (your potential fans) are saying, “Why should I spend my hard earned $5 on this music?” The producers are saying, “Why should I spend time on this project?” The journalists are saying, “Where is it going to get me if I do a story on this band?” The radio is saying, “By adding this band to our playlist, are we really going to be able to increase our advertising revenue?” [Yes, the radio is in the advertising business, not the music exposure business.]

How do you penetrate all these bubbles? You become best friends with the gatekeepers. I’ll repeat myself: It does not matter what level you are at in your music career, you are always going to need the help of the other band who has been around longer than you. It’s great if you are looking to the musicians who are your juniors, and trying to think of ways to help them out, but you need to focus a lot more time on making friends with the people who are your seniors so that they can bring you up. Band X is a great band. When they play at the small clubs they can pack the house. But if they want to play at the medium sized clubs they are going to need to open for Band Y. Likewise, Band Y can pack out the medium sized clubs, but if they want to play the big clubs they are going to have to call on their friends Band Z for help.

Does this seem selfish to you? First of all, quit worrying about that. This is business. Second, it’s not selfish at all, give yourself more credit. You are a valuable asset to the bigger band. In all cases begin to condition yourself to thinking in terms of win/win. Because the fact is you are going to have to convince the senior band that you are good enough to share the stage. You see, they need an opening act, but it won’t do them any good to share the stage with just anybody, they need an opener who knows how to put 100% into a performance, and plays music that fits in context with the show. The venue will not let them play without one. Just like the radio is in the advertising business, the venue is in the beer/liquor business. The only thing the venue cares about is wether or not you draw a big enough crowd, so that they can sell a lot of alcohol. You can make yourself extremely valuable to everyone by going to the “better” band and saying, “Let me do all the work. I will book you a gig if I can be the opening act.” This way, not only do you begin to build a solid relationship with the “better” band, but you also begin to develop a personal relationship with the venue. Further, your fan-base may not be as big as the “better” band’s fan-base, but you do have a valuable and loyal fan-base who spends money at musical outings, right? This helps facilitate the win/win situation because your two fan-bases will be cross pollinating each other (and buying alcohol at the venue).

You ask, “how do I even put the first foot forward in developing this relationship?” By becoming a fan of every band you would like to play with. This again emphasizes the point I made about how focusing “up” instead of “down” is not selfish. You make yourself an asset to the “better” band because you are a fan first; you are regarded as a person who wants to help them make money. The quickest way to befriending a band, and subsequently joining forces with them, is to be at every single show, buy a copy of their EP/LP (and study it), and frequent their myspace page and website so that you always know what they have going on. This way, you have done your “homework” so to speak, and have something to bring to the table when you begin to make contact.

Beyond just sharing the stage, making this connection with “better” bands has the potential to help you tremendously in other areas. When you befriend a band who has more reach than you, you gain access to their network. Additionally, if they really like you, they may use their influence to call in favors for you. Are you looking to make a recording? Well the “better” band just finished making a record with a great engineer, and can put you in contact with him/her. Are you wondering how to get your music placed on cdbaby and iTunes? The “better” band can show you the details. Would you like to have coffee with a band manager? Again, your friends in the “better” band can make that happen.

I have been making my point by focusing on the benefits of befriending another band, but this illustration should not be limited to that scenario. You can and should apply these same points to any relationship you pursue to advance your career.

To sum this section up I’ll present a bulleted list:

  • The music industry is a people oriented business; make friends with everyone wether they are a consumer (fan), producer, venue manager, journalist, etc.
  • No matter what level you are at in your music career, you always need someone “better” than you to help you
  • Don’t just put your focus on the junior bands with less exposure/resources than you, also focus on the bands who are your senior (focus “up” in addition to “down”)
  • Make yourself an asset to the people you want to work with
  • Create a win/win situation
  • You get fans by becoming a fan yourself first
  • When you become friends with a band who is your senior, you gain access to their network

This lesson does not only apply to indie musicians who are just starting out, but to indie producers and engineers who are launching their careers as well. The bulleted list above can be adapted to fit in the context of a producer or engineer’s career:

  • The music industry is a people oriented business-have I made this point yet?
  • No matter what level you are at in your music career, you always need someone “better” than you to help you.
    All those CD’s you have piled up in the corner of your room? Look at the liner notes. Find out who made those records and get to know them. This may be easier said than done if you don’t live anywhere near the major music hubs, such as New York, Nashville and Los Angeles, but the internet is a wonderful thing.
  • Balance out your focus between those who are “up” from you, and those who are “down” from you.
    Both groups of people, the ones who are your senior, and the ones who are your junior, have valuable lessons/skills to teach you, as well as assets to offer to you. For example, your juniors get you to think when they ask for your advice. You might end up learning something new, or gaining a new perspective on something when you go through this thought process. Your juniors also have valuable skills that they can offer to help you work more efficiently. Your seniors get you to think when you ask them for advice. They teach you to think differently and more complex about something than you had before. They show you tricks that never occurred to you. Your seniors also have valuable tools that they might share with you (such as gear), or people they can connect you with.
  • Make yourself an asset to the people you want to work with.
    Just like your juniors have valuable skills that can help you work more efficiently, you also have valuable skills that can serve as an asset to your seniors. Tasks like setting up microphones, filling out recall sheets, documenting sessions with photos, preparing files to be mixed and printing mixes to the two-track machine are just a few examples.
  • Create a win/win situation.
    A couple common problems with young engineers who are just starting out is that they 1) can’t get any work because they don’t have enough experience and 2) the work they do get does not pay well and is unreliable. The solution to this problem is to place value on experience rather than money. In most business, and especially in the music industry, if you put the focus on quality the money will just happen. Besides, at this stage in your career you are still learning. Don’t get me wrong you will always be learning, but when you are first starting out you are spending a lot of time on the fundamentals. You need to put your focus on building your portfolio and skill set, and focus on making money later. You can strike deals with artists like negotiating the right to use the material on your personal website or myspace page to showcase your work. Additionally, the right to use the material on a CD in order to give to a publishing company, record label executive or producer so that they might hire you for another gig. A band should not object to this, as it is exposure that could work to their advantage. The way one engineer I used to work for put it was that you need people rooting for you. In other words, position yourself such that others do well if you do well.
  • You get fans by becoming a fan yourself first.
    Let’s face it: we all do what we do in music for the satisfaction we get when others enjoy our work. Everyone likes to be complimented, so if you want people to talk about your work, then talk about their work, study their work and ask them questions about their work. Not only will you show them that you pay attention and admire them, but you will learn a few things too.

Remember, the music business is a what oriented business? PEOPLE ORIENTED BUSINESS… You only get out of your career what you put into it. When you strike that killer record deal, that is when the work starts. When you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, that is when the work first starts. Extremely hard work and patience are key. No one wants to help someone who won’t help themselves. Make sure you are always active in your own career. When you work along side those who work for you, you will find out that success happens a lot quicker and smoother. And typically it is bigger than you expected. Do yourself a favor and don’t tie your hands by tying other people’s hands. Do your share of the work. Make sacrifices. Create a win/win situation. Seek opportunity. Find a way to say, “Yes.”

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Posted on 15-07-2007
Filed Under (music business) by Jon Stinson

i was talking to someone the other day about the state of the music business. the main point of discussion was how record labels are dealing with the changing tides of the industry. there were a lot of subtopics brought up during our discussion, and many ideas touched on that would be possible solutions to the needs of a new market. at one point something was said that struck a chord with me. i dont remember verbatim what the person said, so i will just paraphrase it.

in most industries you do your daily job, working hard to become successful. but you dont live and die by what you do. at night you go home to your family. on the weekends you go to the movies, you go boating, you leave your job at the office and have fun. in the music business you have to live it. if you want to be more successful than your competitor, and the competition is working every waking hour, then you have to adopt that work ethic too.

in short, you basically have to give up your life to make records. at least this is the case with artists, producers, engineers and assistant engineers. it doesnt help when the music industry is taking a huge hit because record sales are down. there are plenty of solutions out there for opening up alternate revenue streams. everyone who works in the industry has an opinion of what those solutions are, but nothing seems to change. the only thing that does seem to change is that budgets shrink, and rosters get smaller. i could go on and on, griping about what is wrong with the music industry, but im just going to stop short. i woke up on the wrong side of the bed. tomorrow is a fresh start to a new workweek… i swear im gonna be positive.

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